A/N: You can all blame my chronic insomnia for this one. Lack of sleep and copious amounts of stress led to me being awake at midnight with nothing to do except re-watch "The Fellowship of the Ring" (for about the thousandth time) and begin an episode of Doctor Who- specifically, "The Christmas Invasion." Just after the exploding Christmas tree (Spoilers!) I was struck with inspiration.
Now, I've been struck with 3am-inspiration before, and usually the result is completely stupid by morning. This is the only one I actually think I can pull off. And yes, it's slightly weird. But c'mon, guys. We're fans of shows that talk about magical rings and time-traveling police boxes. So what's too weird?
So remember: if it's weird and stupid… blame insomnia.
Chapter one draws heavily on "Children in Need: 2005", and started out as a one-shot of Nine's regeneration in Rose's POV. Now, it will serve as a lovely prologue.
Disclaimer: I own not Doctor Who or The Lord of the Rings, nor any dialogue from either, or any recognizable characters. I'm merely borrowing them for a bit of playtime.
It was all so gold.
For this was the only word appropriate to describe it. It would be bright, had it not possessed such an innate, powerful darkness. It would be beautiful, had it not signified such a grotesque, such an ugly change.
Rose Tyler. I was going to take you to so many places.
Rose clung to the side of the TARDIS, both shivering. Why the TARDIS was shivering, she could not say. Anticipation? Excitement? Or did they share the same source: pure, unadulterated terror?
Fiery it was, as it poured from every orifice of the Doctor's body. It shot into the air with a roar, licking hungrily at every surface it could touch and swirling around the Doctor's body. Was it still his body? Was anything left inside the towering inferno of gold that consumed the Doctor's form?
Every cell in my body is dying.
He was gone. The Doctor- HER Doctor was gone. He had told her he would be. How nonchalant he had sounded, with the same smile splitting his face, the same look of casual happiness appearing in his eyes between the heart-wrenching spasms that wracked his form. He had not grieved, so she had done it for him. He had not worried, so she had done it for him.
She had been there for him, as she always had. Would she still have to be there for him now? What would she do, go back to her mum and the flat? To Mickey? What would become of her? What would become of him?
Time Lords have this little trick; sort of a way of cheating death. Except…
So many thoughts rushed through her head while the gold bathed the TARDIS and her Doctor. Her fingers tightened; her jaw clenched. What would happen? What?
…it means I'm going to change.
As Rose watched, the gold began to modify. It started at the collar of his shirt, spinning tighter and tighter until it solidified into… into a neck.
Was it possible?
For it seemed it was, as the neck was followed by the sharp slope of a jaw, and the curve of an Adam's apple. Two bumps quickly became ears, and the gentle shading of cheekbones appearing shortly after.
You're not gonna see me again. Not with this daft old face.
But it was wrong. Wrong. Even as she shielded her eyes from the harshness of the gold, she could tell. The face was too thin, the jaw too pronounced. The chest was skinnier; the entire frame, in fact. Longer fingers attached to longer hands poked from the sleeves of the jacket, manifesting brightly through the golden ribbons. And as sideburns sprouted into a pompadour of brown hair, Rose felt the bottom of her stomach drop.
And I won't be seeing you again.
The gold stopped with a jolt, but Rose and the TARDIS continued to shudder as the man in the Doctor's clothes focused on her face. Brown eyes bored into her soul, as she gazed upon them for the first time. His face was blank; a newborn baby's face. He looked just as curious as she felt.
And then he opened his mouth to speak.
"Hullo," he said quietly. "I ca-"
A strange expression came over his face, words dying in his throat as he ran his tongue around his mouth.
"New teeth," she heard him murmur. "That's weird."
And then his eyes snapped to the console, and he quirked an eyebrow. "Now, where was I?"
He refocused on her, eyes shining brightly. "Oh, that's right!" The man- this new, strange man- almost smiled.
You were fantastic, Rose. And you know what? So was I.
He lunged at the console, actions quick and jerky- almost manic. A stream of words fell from his mouth, but Rose wasn't listening. She was watching.
She had never seen the hand that twisted the dial on the console. She had never before heard the voice coming out of the man's mouth- Estuary English accent, like hers. She had never seen those ears, those eyes, that nose.
Who was he? Why was he familiar?
"On our way to Barcelona!" The Man smiled at her- a full smile, not the smirk she had gotten earlier. This was full of happiness, and pure joy. His eyes sparked, and she could see a faint bit of gold fading away in his pupils.
"Now then," he said. "What do I look like?" Before she could answer (and anyway, what could she say?) he threw up a hand. "No! No, no, no-no-no-no!" he crowed. "Don't tell me."
And then, strangely enough, The Man began to examine himself. "Two legs, two arms, two hands…" he murmured, an unexplainable air of delight in this fact. A thumb and forefinger gripped his right wrist, and The Man rotated it in a slow circle. "Slight weakness in the dorsal tubercle…"
"HAIR!" came a cry, and two long hands pawed through the auburn locks with vigor. "I'm not bald! Ooh, BIG hair! And SIDEBURNS!" The Man was practically giggling. "I've got SIDEBURNS! And really bad skin…"He drummed on his stomach a few times. "Little bit thinner. That's weird. Give me time, I'll get used to it."
A sudden look of apprehension came to his face, and he froze. Rose was torn between asking him what was wrong, and running away while he was distracted by-
"I have got a mole," he said quietly. The maniacal smile split his face again, as he started shuffling his shoulders this way and that. "I can feel it. Between my shoulder-blades is a mole." He winked. "It's alright. Love the mole."
The Man turned to her expectantly, spreading his arms. "Go on then, tell me. What do you think?" He grinned.
Rose could only answer with the words that had been cycling in her head over and over again. "Who are you?"
"I'm the Doctor," he replied without hesitation.
Rose shook her head once, twice. "No," she said softly. "Where is he?" This Man couldn't, COULDN'T be her Doctor. "What have you done to him?" she demanded, voice getting louder with each word.
The Man looked baffled. His mouth worked silently for a moment before he pointed weakly behind him. "I… changed. Right in front of you."
Her Doctor had just died, vanished in a spurt of liquid gold, and this… this person had taken his place. How dare he insist he was the Doctor? How dare he try to fill the shoes of the greatest man ever to twist the fabric of space and time?
"Something sort of… exploded, and you…" Rose stuttered over her words, shaking. "You replaced him like a… a teleporter, or a… transfer, or a body-swap, or something."
She strode forward, placing a hand on The Man's chest and pushing him away from her. Solid muscle and bone resisted her touch, guaranteeing that she was stuck in the TARDIS with a stranger. A stranger in the Doctor's clothes. "You're NOT fooling me."
"I've seen all sorts of things," she continued. "Nanogene… gelf… Slitheen…" Rose's blood ran cold. "Oh my god, are you Slitheen?"
The Man stared at her and answered slowly, as though to an invalid. "I am not a Slitheen."
"Send him back," Rose tried to say, but it came out a whisper. She tried again, clenching her fists. "I'm warning you; send the Doctor back RIGHT NOW!" Her voice rose impressively on the last two words.
The Man looked desperate, and he placed two pleading hands on his chest. "Rose, it's me! Honestly, i-it's me!" When she didn't look convinced, he dropped his hands pathetically, pleading to her with his eyes.
"I was dying," he whispered, almost to himself, but when he spoke again it was louder. "To save my life, I changed my body. Every single cell. But…" he gave her a half-smile. "Still me."
Rose was trying hard to keep a straight face, but she could feel desperate tears pricking her eyes. It couldn't be true. He couldn't be the Doctor. Somehow this Man had replaced him, and the REAL Doctor was going to pop out from behind a corner, chuckling over having fooled her.
"But you can't be." It came out a whimper.
The Man half-smiled again, the gesture full of infinite sadness; worryingly-familiar sadness. "Then how could I remember this?" He began to take slow, smooth steps towards her, and she knew she should run.
The Doctor will pop out of hiding any minute, Rose thought.
"The very first word I ever said to you." The Man was only inches from her face. His brown eyes were boring into her.
Any minute, now.
"In that cellar, surrounded by shop dummies. Ooh…" The Man pursed his lips, eyes wistful. "...such a long time ago."
Now. It has to be NOW.
"I took your hands," The Man said, doing so as he spoke. She swallowed hard; his hands were cold, and he grasped hers firmly.
"I whispered one word," The Man said in a hushed tone. "Just one word."
Doctor, where are you?
The Man raised his eyebrows, and whispered one word: "Run."
The look of sadness. The quiet amusement. The way the TARDIS was purring comfortably under her feet. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners.
The Doctor wasn't going to pop out from behind a corner.
He was standing directly in front of her.
The Man- The Doctor- winked, and broke into the first true smile she had seen. "Hullo."
He was alive. He was here…
…And then with a sudden twitch, he was gone, flitting about the console with a sort of manic energy.
"And we never stopped, did we?" he babbled, tapping buttons and throwing switches with no real care. "Running, running, running! All across the universe! And one time, we had to hop! Remember that?" The Ma- Doctor began to hop on one foot, hair flopping in his deliriously grinning face. "Remember hopping for our lives? Hop, hop, hop? Yeah? All the hopping Remember hopping for your life?" He switched feet. "Yeah? Hop?"
The hopping stopped with a thud, as the Doctor's face dropped into a blank slate. He stared at his companion intensely, eyes wide. Rose thought she still saw a glimmer of gold in his eyes.
There was something wrong with this new Doctor. "Can you change back?" she asked, trying to keep the hope out of her voice.
His face didn't change. Not even a flicker of emotion. "Do you want me to?"
There was a moment of silence.
"Well, can you?"
"No." The Doctor's eyes flicked to the floor for a split second, but soon refocused on her face. "Do you want to leave?"
Rose was stunned. "Do you want me to leave?"
"No." Only a slight rising of the eyebrows signified any sort of emotion in the tall man. "But it's your choice, if you want to go home."
Rose couldn't bring herself to speak. He would just… leave her? Let her go? After… after everything?
The Doctor seemed to take her silence as an assent, and moved to the console. His fingers flew over keys while he read off stats in a monotone. "London. Powell Estate. Oh… Let's make it December 24." He looked at her. "Call it a Christmas present."
The TARDIS shuddered and Rose could feel it shifting beneath her feet, twisting down a new eddy of the time stream. "I'm going home?"
"If you want to. It's all there," the Doctor told her blandly. "Your mum. The house. Fish and chips, bangers and mash… No!" he exclaimed suddenly, looking contemplatively at the ceiling. "Christmas… turkey. Although, having met your mother…" He wrinkled his nose. "Nut-loaf would be more appropriate."
Rose couldn't help smiling, and the Doctor pounced on it. His face finally relaxed from its expressionless mask, and he grinned at her. "Was that a smile?"
"No, it wasn't."
"That was a smile."
"No, it wasn't."
"No, I didn't."
The Doctor grimaced playfully at her, and she felt a small fraction of herself relax. "Oh, come on," he chided. "I just changed, it's not like I-"
Suddenly, the Doctor shuddered, body arching and spasming violently. The TARDIS shook, as if in sympathy, and Rose jumped slightly. After a moment it was over, and the Doctor stared at her as if it had never happened. "What?" she asked.
The Doctor tried again. "I said, I didn't-" Another tremor, more powerful than the one before it, wracked the Doctor's body. He gurgled and choked sickeningly. The TARDIS thundered, ground shaking.
The Doctor raised his eyes to Rose, eyes terrified. "Oh, no."
"Are you alright?" she asked, wincing at every tremor.
"The change is going a bit wrong, it's-" he dissolved into sputtering again, bending at the waist. Rose was beside him before she realized she had moved. He gazed at her desperately, opening his mouth and sighing. A strand of golden smoke curled from his throat, dissolving into the air.
"What is that?' she gasped. He merely shook his head, trembling.
"Maybe we should go back," she said quickly. "We could call Captain Jack-"
"Oh, he's busy!" The Doctor interrupted, voice oddly manic. He straightened so quickly that Rose nearly fell over and a weird light shone behind his features. "He's got plenty to do, rebuilding the Earth!"
His head snapped to the console, eyes wild. "This is going to take years," he muttered, and began frantically flipping switches and throwing levers. The TARDIS shook violently and began picking up speed.
"What are you doing?" Rose cried. The Doctor took no notice of her, running about the cabin and pushing every button he could reach.
"Speed! SPEED!" he cried feverishly. "That's it! Faster! Faster, old girl! Faster!"
"STOP IT!" Rose shrieked, holding desperately to the side of the control panel as the TARDIS began to shake up and down.
The Doctor snapped his head towards her, and she was terrified by the demonic gleam in his eyes. "Oh, come on! Let's have some fun! Let's have some FUN! Let's RIP right through that vortex!"
He gasped, and his face became a mirror to her terror. "Rose. Rose, it's all gone wrong. The transformation…" He gasped again. "I can't stop myself."
"What's going to happen?" she yelled to him as an alarm bell began to ring.
"We're going to do it."
"What, rip through the void?"
"We can't! Where will we go?"
"I don't know. Unless I can-"
The Doctor howled arching his back and gripping the console, white-knuckled. His face reverted to the mad smile, and he laughed. "Faster! Faster! What's wrong with this engine? FASTER!"
"YOU'LL KILL US!" Rose shrieked, sinking to her knees as the TARDIS twisted and bucked under her.
"QUITE RIGHT!" he roared back. He slammed a hand on the console, and the TARDIS shrieked from the strain.
As the Doctor continued to rant and rave, pushing the TARDIS to its outer limits, Rose squeezed her eyes shut. She had no clue what was going to happen, or where they would go. Usually this didn't bother her- she had the Doctor's presence to reassure her. Now, she had nothing.
Because no matter what this man said, no matter what he did, he wasn't her Doctor.
He wasn't her Doctor at all.